Deborah Dean, MD, MPH
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Phone: 510-450-7655


Chlamydia Research Laboratory at CHORI

Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular parasite and a scourge of humankind. It has been known for decades as the etiological factor in the blinding eye disease, trachoma, and is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world today. In fact, over 600 million people, or one tenth of the world’s population, are infected with chlamydiae. Approximately 150 million are at risk for visual impairment, and 9 million are already blind. In the 1980’s, C. trachomatis was discovered to be the most common cause of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) worldwide with an estimated 92 million infected each year; approximately 2.8 million are infected annually in the US alone. A related species, Chlamydia pneumoniae, is a major respiratory pathogen among all age groups and, in recent years, has been associated with atherosclerosis, heart disease and cancer.

Dr. Deborah Dean conducts research on many aspects of chlamydial infections. She pioneered the first genotyping of C. trachomatis based on gene sequences of ompA that encode the major outer membrane protein of the organism, and recently developed a multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) scheme that significantly enhances strain identification and the association of strain type with disease phenotype. She conducts research on the molecular epidemiology and pathogenesis of chlamydial STDs around the world, including the association of persistent organisms with disease pathology, mechanisms the organisms uses to prevent programmed cell death in infected cells, local host immune responses to active and persistent infections, and host genetic susceptibility to chlamydial infection, inflammation, and disease among Ecuadorian, Nepali and Vietnamese populations. Her research on chlamydial STDs among adolescents will help to design appropriate interventions in this population.

Dr. Dean also studies the role of the host/pathogen interactions in the pathogenesis of blinding trachoma, and serves as the research coordinator for the World Health Organization and International Trachoma Initiative for prevention of blinding trachoma in Vietnam. Dr. Dean is currently developing the Chlamydia Sequence Database, an interactive, user-friendly, relational database for chlamydial genes and genomes of functional interest that will advance science in the field of Chlamydia and will serve as a model for other databases. Along these lines, she is the PI of a large NIH grant on the comparative genomics of C. trachomatis reference strain serotypes and recent clinical isolates that will provide informative data on the evolution and disease correlates of strains among different populations.  She also is the PI on a large grant from the National Science Foundation and US Department of Agriculture Microbial Genome Project to study the comparative genomics of Chlamydia organisms of animal origin and how these organisms evolve and cause disease, and their propensity for jumping host species. She conducts bioinformatics research to make sense of the plethora of gene and genome sequences being generated for Chlamydia spp. as well as microarray data.  In the latter instance, she is using these data to better understand the role of C. pneumoniae in vascular disease pathogenesis.

Finally, Dr. Dean is collaborating with different biotech companies to develop a vaccine to prevent and ameliorate chlamydial related STDs among all age groups, to develop leading edge nanotechnology to study chlamydial disease pathogenesis, and to develop a readily deployable, cost effect and rapid-point-of-care test that can be used to screen for chlamydial infections not just in hospitals and clinical labs in developed countries but globally in inner city and rural clinics, and field sites worldwide.


Revised: Thursday, April 16, 2020 3:03 PM


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